Bluesman Victor Wainwright may consider Memphis, Tennessee, his base of operations, but Savannah will always be his home. After all, he is known as the “Piana from Savannah.”
Wainwright and his band, the Train, are returning to his birthplace for an overdue performance at Tybee Post Theater.
“I try to visit for the holidays,” Wainwright said. “That’s about the best I can do these days, I’m on the road so much.”
Wainwright, who is a charismatic performer and an electrifying boogie piano man, is coming off of a recent Grammy Award nomination for last year’s “Victor Wainwright and the Train,” released on Ruf Records, and has seen his fanbase and critical acclaim rapidly grow.
“My main concern is that we don’t sell out so fast that I can’t have my friends and family come,” Wainwright said. “We do well and people love coming out to see our show. With the Grammy nomination this year, we’ve been selling a lot more tickets to shows we normally wouldn’t have otherwise.”
Wainwright’s album was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album and the busy performer almost didn’t make it to the ceremony.
“We were actually coming off of something called the Legendary Blues Cruise and we got off the cruise at 4:30 in the morning at Fort Lauderdale and flew to California, and we got there, put on our tuxes, got an Uber, and sat down three categories before our category was called,” Wainwright said. “So, it was a mad rush to the Grammys, but we made it in time. Of course we didn’t win it, but just to be there was unbelievable, really a dream come true.
“I think the amount of submissions in our category was astronomical this year, we were told,” he continued. “Just to be picked in the top four or five was something that really meant, and still means, a whole lot to us.”
Victor Wainwright and the Train are currently in the studio working on their follow-up with the same lineup and the same producer, David Gross, as the previous album. Wainwright wrote so many songs for the debut that he had enough material for two more records, so he sees his three album deal with Ruf Records as a trilogy — the threads of the songs connect into “one big story.”
“I decided I wanted to make it an anthology,” Wainwright said. “So, one record to the next, you should be able to listen to them all in a row if you wanted to — if you were that crazy.”
During performances, Wainwright is garrulous in between songs and is as entertaining as a storyteller as he is a singer.
“I definitely tell a lot of stories when I’m on the stage, and on the records I definitely go in a lot of different directions than, let’s say, your normal blues person,” Wainwright said.
“I’ve always taken the approach of B.B. King. B.B. King was one of my biggest mentors, biggest idols. I love how he came on stage and made everybody happier. Blues is not something that’s supposed to make you sad; it’s supposed to take the blues away. We all have the same sort of problems: love, heartbreak, trouble at work, spiritual trouble. Blues for me, as an entertainment, is more like the people inside of a church than the walls or the steeple. That’s what makes up the church for me, and blues to me are the people that are inside of it, and also the fact that we’re trying to take people away from their worries and troubles.
“The stories I like to tell are usually humorous, funny. I try to make them funny and if they laugh then that’s great. I want to take them away from their everyday trouble. I want them to forget anything that might be bothering them. Laughter is a great way to go about that.”
Even though Wainwright tours around the world most of the year, there is something particularly special about playing in your old stomping ground, so Tybee fans should expect an especially energetic show.
“Seeing my family and friends that I grew up with is extremely important to me,” Wainwright said. “It reminds me of my roots and gives me a place to launch off from. Because I grew up in music — my dad taught me how to sing and play, and my grandfather taught me how to play piano — I have a lot of history and musical roots in Savannah that always equals an extra special performance. There’s just something different about playing for family and friends, and I think the audience reaps the benefit of that, for sure. And I might even get a few guests up, you never know.”